Facebook to incorporate users' browsing history for ads

Technology -

Facebook says the move to incorporate its users' browsing history for advertising purposes will help connect these users with more relevant advertisers.

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Copyright 2014 Reuters
Copyright 2014 Reuters

Facebook will soon begin incorporating users' web browsing history in order to serve better targeted ads, the company said June 12. In the U.S., the targeted ads will appear on both the desktop website and in the company's mobile apps in the coming weeks. The ads will roll out internationally thereafter.

"Let's say that you're thinking about buying a new TV, and you start researching TVs on the web and in mobile apps. We may show you ads for deals on a TV to help you get the best price or other brands to consider. And because we think you're interested in electronics, we may show you ads for other electronics in the future." Facebook

While Facebook has always used its users' express actions, including "Likes," to serve targeted ads, this is the first time the company is using its users' web browsing history to serve ads.

Facebook generated $2.27 billion in advertising revenue in Q1 2014, up from $1.25 billion in Q1 2013.

Facebook alerted the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and Ireland's data protection regulator (the company's international headquarters is in Dublin) about the changes before they were announced in order to "keep them informed." Facebook in 2012 agreed to a 20-year FTC monitoring period as part of a privacy-related settlement.

As part of the targeted ad push, Facebook will now give users more granular controls over the kinds of ads they see. Users will be able to tweak their ad preferences to eliminate entire categories, such as electronics or sports, from ever appearing. Source: newsroom.fb.com

As part of the targeted ad push, Facebook will now give users more granular controls over the kinds of ads they see. Users will be able to tweak their ad preferences to eliminate entire categories, such as electronics or sports, from ever appearing.

"But, I mean, very few people are actually going to [edit their ad preferences]. So in reality I think that these companies with big ad networks are basically getting away with collecting huge amounts of information, likely way more information than people are sharing on Facebook about themselves." Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook CEO

In a 2011 interview with Charlie Rose, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg criticized the use of users' web browsing history for advertising purposes.

A June 23 Gallup survey found that 62% of Americans say that social media has "little to no" influence over their spending habits. Only 5% of Americans believe social media has a "great deal" of influence over their spending habits.

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